How Jeanne Halderson teaches with iPad.

“When you look across your classroom and know that kids are learning more than ever before, that’s when you realise you’ve made a difference.”

Jeanne Halderson, Longfellow Middle School, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Motivating students.

After more than 20 years as a literature, social studies and arts teacher at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Jeanne Halderson knows that Year 8 is a pivotal point in education. “Year 8 kids are going through a stage of development where the most important thing to them is their social life. And as a teacher, my job is to get them excited about learning, and figure out a way that they’ll be intrinsically motivated.”

Halderson believes that if you want to engage students, you need to offer them choices and give them ownership of their own learning. Until Longfellow adopted an iPad one-to-one programme in 2013, giving students those choices was a challenge.

Lessons used to be paper-based, which made offering a wide variety of projects challenging. Organising all that paper was simply arduous. “It was not only overwhelming for the kids, but it was also overwhelming for me as the teacher.”

Now that the school’s 150 Year-8 students are on iPad, Halderson uses iTunes U courses to easily customise her lessons and quickly distribute a variety of materials to her class.

Making a difference.

With Halderson’s iTunes U courses, students can move at their own pace and get through more material than ever before. “Some students can complete a class in five to ten days that previously would have taken seven to 12 days,” she says. “I simply set up my iTunes U course, distribute it, and my kids move through the material. They’re self-motivated and they just keep going.”

iTunes U has transformed the way Halderson teaches Year 8 — and the way her Year-8 students learn. “The actual academic achievement of the students has increased. “Kids are learning more, and it’s reflected in their grades,” says Halderson. “I do know it makes a difference in their lives. And what motivates me to keep going is the fact that I’m making a difference — iPad has added more power to what I was already doing.”

Tailored teaching.

Halderson assembled her iTunes U courses using content from the iBooks Store, the App Store, iTunes U and her own library of teaching materials. “I have pulled together a multitude of different ways for kids to learn. I offer audio, video and directions for different types of projects they can do. Everything the students need for their entire unit is right here on iPad,” she says.

The customised coursework also gives Halderson more flexibility. “I can deliver my entire unit right away, so students who may have completed an activity in the first ten minutes can move on to the next step,” she says. “And I can continue to work with the kids who need more support. Each student gets the level of personal interaction [with me] that they need.”

And that learning continues beyond the classroom. Students download Halderson’s courses at school so they can study at home — whether or not they have an Internet connection. “Providing content that can be accessed without using the Internet is something really powerful for our students,” says Halderson. “They have a 24/7 working environment and can do homework at any time.”

“When you allow students to envision their own learning and create a style that really works for them, what you’re doing is creating lifelong learners.”

Tips from Jeanne Halderson.

Master the app basics.

“Learn the essentials of each app including how to add text, visuals and audio/video, and how to export content. But don’t stress about learning every detailed feature before using it with students. Instead, give your students the opportunity to shine as they teach the teacher, while you model the joy of lifelong learning.”

Offer recordings of lessons.

“Provide audio or video of all your lessons, so students have the option of going back and listening again later. I use GarageBand to record as I teach. And using Photo Booth to record video also works well. My students of all academic levels and learning styles go back and listen, sometimes more than once. This is especially helpful when students are absent from class.”

Differentiate your lessons.

“Working with my students at their own level lets all of them progress and reach their highest potential. I use the assignments feature on iTunes U to organise paths for differentiated learning. With the ability to post audio, video, links, documents, PDFs, apps, Multi-Touch books and more, I can provide academic content that meets the needs of a variety of learners — and students aren’t even aware that their peers may have a different assignment.”

Give students choice.

“Allowing students to choose to personalise how they learn is easy using iTunes U. I post various options for how to learn the academic content, and provide numerous project choices and rubrics to allow students to showcase what they’ve learned. Everything is located in one place, and it’s simple for me to leverage apps or project choices and rubrics from one unit to the next.”

Manage your course as you go.

“I’m often asked how I have time to put all my courses into iTunes U. My answer is simple — I post my content week by week, or sometimes day by day, as students need the information. This makes course creation manageable from the very first year. Then each following year, I can modify the course to reflect new teaching ideas that meet the needs of my current class. iTunes U has reduced my workload and made planning time more productive.”